As I had noted in my earlier article “Warren County: Voting Machines and
Thumb Drives Missing, and More!” Warren County is engaged in a heated race for the position of County Auditor. There are limited media outlets in the County, which can make the dissemination of information in a timely manner difficult, especially since the Special Election for Auditor is on August 29th. I am grateful for Jacob Hall and the Iowa Standard which allows us to get important information out promptly.
The two candidates in this Special Election for County Auditor are Deputy Auditor Kim Sheets, a Democrat, and Interim Auditor David Whipple, a Republican.
Sheets’ campaign slogan is “Experience you can trust,” and she is running on her claimed experience in the Auditor’s office. However, there is more to that claimed experience than meets the eye. On the resume that she had submitted to the Board of Supervisors in May of this year, she noted that as Deputy Auditor she assisted the Auditor in managing responsibilities when needed, and supported the Auditor in managing staff and official duties when the Auditor was unavailable. Consider the following examples of Sheets’ “experience” doing so in the Auditor’s office.
Dropping the Ball on Warren County Redistricting
I recently learned that then-Auditor Traci VanderLinden and Deputy Auditor Kim Sheets dropped the ball on Warren County redistricting.
In the November 2022 General Election the majority of Warren County voters approved going to a five-member board of supervisors in 2024. This required the redistricting of Warren County from three to five supervisor districts.
On May 2, 2023, the Warren County Board of Supervisors appointed five Warren County residents to a Redistricting Committee. Once this committee completed a plan for redistricting Warren County into five supervisor districts, the Supervisors would have to approve the plan and then send it to the State Commissioner of Elections for approval.
However, the Supervisors were recently advised that Iowa Code Section 331.210A(2)(f) requires the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) to draw the supervisor district boundaries for counties like Warren (who are under Plan 3). And for LSA to get involved, the county auditor needed to make a formal notification to the Secretary of State’s office that an election had been held to increase the number of supervisors from three to five, the vote was affirmative, and the county needed a map of five supervisor districts. This request would then be forwarded to LSA.
The election was in November 2022. But in the subsequent months neither then-Auditor Traci VanderLinden nor her Deputy Kim Sheets had contacted the Secretary of State’s office, thus causing a months-long delay in the process and the Redistricting Committee members to waste three months of their time. Fortunately, Interim Auditor David Whipple recently took care of the matter.
Over $5,000 in Late Fees
On Sheets’ resume she noted that while being Deputy Auditor, she had also been the Accounts Payable Clerk from July 1, 2022, to the Present. She wrote that her responsibilities in that role included, “Pay all invoices for each county department as received.” However, as of this writing, Interim Auditor David Whipple has discovered that the Auditor’s office has paid over $5,000.00 in late fees to Indianola Municipal Utilities alone in 2022-23. The Board of Supervisors were not aware of this. Since not all of the County accounts have been reviewed, this amount in late fees is likely to go higher. Invoices were apparently not being paid “as received.”
$5,800 Interest Free Loan of Taxpayers’ Money?
Thanks to Campaign Researcher Donald Bohlken, we recently learned that in 2022 the Auditor’s office paid the same $5,800.00 invoice twice to the billing company. This was not discovered until 2023 when the Iowa State Auditor released an audit report of Warren County. On p. 95 the report stated: “We observed the same invoice paid twice by the County, resulting in an overpayment of $5,800.” The report stated that the cause was: “Policies and procedures were not established to ensure supporting documentation is effectively cancelled.” The report recommended that:
“Procedures should be implemented to ensure supporting documentation is effectively marked as paid to prevent being paid again. The County should seek reimbursement for the overpayment.”
The Auditor’s office replied that they “will more closely monitor in order to avoid future duplication.” Instead of asking for the excess $5,800.00 to be immediately returned, the Auditor stated that the vendor would reduce charges to the County on future invoices for the duplicate payment.
The excess payment was made in June 2022, and a month later Sheets was given the additional responsibility of being the Accounts Payable Clerk. But this excess payment was not discovered until early in 2023, and it was not discovered by the Accounts Payable Clerk, but rather by the Iowa State Auditor. And instead of asking that the $5,800.00 of taxpayers’ money be immediately returned, the Auditor and the Deputy Auditor/Accounts Payable Clerk apparently decided the money would be returned to the Warren County taxpayers incrementally, and over an unspecified amount of time. Sounds like an interest free loan of taxpayers’ money to a specific business.
Six Months Delay in Publishing Public Records
On her resume, Sheets listed one of her responsibilities, starting on July 1, 2022, as attending “Board [of Supervisors] meetings to take minutes and keep records.” It is interesting to note that earlier this year the Supervisors were complaining because the Auditor’s office was six months behind in publishing the minutes of the Supervisors’ Board Meetings. It was only after those complaints that those minutes, public records, started being published in a timely manner.
Kim Sheets’ campaign slogan is “Experience you can trust,” and the Warren County Democrats had claimed that if the Supervisors had initially chosen Sheets as Interim Auditor, her “experience” in the Auditor’s office would have resulted in a “seamless transition” after then-Auditor VanderLinden retired. But as the Deputy Auditor and second in command of the Auditor’s office, here is some of what we now know Sheets was “experiencing” in that office:
- Voting machines and equipment stored in an unsecured room;
- Unawareness of missing voting machines and missing thumb drives for those machines;
- 25 businesses in Warren County losing out on business tax credits because the Auditor’s office had missed deadlines in turning the required paperwork in to the IRS;
- The Auditor’s office was supposed to be responsible for county payroll, but the Supervisors had taken that responsibility away from the Auditor’s office twice in the last few years.
- Failure to follow through on notification requirements for County Supervisor redistricting, resulting in a months-long delay in the process and the Redistricting Committee members to waste three months of their time.
- Paying Indianola Municipal Utilities over $5,000.00 in late fees, with the overall amount of late fees paid likely to go higher;
- Not realizing a company had been paid $5,800.00 twice and then not asking for those taxpayer funds to be immediately returned;
- Six months delay in publishing public records.
A “seamless transition” means that these, and other yet-to-be discovered problems, would only continue. It was only the “new eyes” and “new approach” of Interim Auditor Davie Whipple that exposed these problems. Instead of a “seamless transition,” it is time for a “seam” to separate the old from the new in the Warren County Auditor’s office.
Dr. Stephen M. Kirby is the author of six books about Islam. His latest book is Islamic Doctrine versus the U.S. Constitution: The Dilemma for Muslim Public Officials. He is also the Chair for the Warren County Republicans. The views expressed here are his own.